No matter the startup stage you are in, even at the idea stage, marketing plays a critical role in your business. If you want to know whether your startup idea is worth pursing, you need a way to reach your potential customers. If you want your product or service to stand out and gain traction, you need to have a strategy for reaching your buyers.
Needless to say, we are living in the period of human history with the highest competition for people’s attention. Getting your product or service in front of people’s eyes is selling at a premium – the ability to offer this privilege for sale is what makes Google and Facebook two of the biggest companies in the world.
At the same time, according to the Startup Genome project, premature scaling is the number one reason for startup failure. Over-spending on promotion is a textbook example of premature scaling – early-stage startups usually have very limited resources, and they cannot afford to waste them.
Because of this, choosing the right marketing strategy for early-stage startups is one of the most important decisions you can make as a startup founder. Here are three that are well suited for early-stage projects with little resources:
1. Content Marketing Through LinkedIn
“Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.” —Seth Godin
If the focus of your startup is B2B, then LinkedIn can be the perfect channel to focus on. You can use it to share blog posts from your website (a very good idea if you’re also implementing SEO), but you can also create LinkedIn content – this reduces the native friction and could increase the reach and engagement of your content.
If you create useful content, then LinkedIn allows you to bootstrap an audience by using your own professional network as a launchpad. By connecting to people in your industry (who might also be potential clients), you are increasing the chance that your content will get in front of the eyes of potential stakeholders in your business.
Remember that in B2B often the most important criterium isn’t how many people know about your business, but rather – which people. LinkedIn gives you a great opportunity to get in front of the eyes of decision makers and budget owners.
2. Content Marketing Through Your Website And SEO
“In 2004, good SEO made you remarkable on the web. In 2014, good SEO is a result of being remarkable on the web.” — Rand Fishkin
The beauty of SEO in 2022 (even more so than in 2014) is that it’s much more straightforward than it appears. Content quality combined with good targeting – ie providing information that people are searching for on Google, are by far the most important factors.
In other words, the key to SEO success is to provide the best informative content in your niche.
The beauty of SEO is that it can give you a constant flow of traffic to your website even after you stop publishing new content. While getting ranked on Google takes time and effort, once you succeed the returns on investment, in the long run, are enormous.
3. Affiliate Marketing Through Influencers
Influencer marketing is without a doubt one of the most powerful promotional tools in the age of social media. This is especially true for startups that provide innovative solutions. People usually need social validation in order to give innovative products and brands a try, and a recommendation by their trusted influencer is the perfect tool for the job.
The problem with influencer marketing is that it is rather expensive, especially if you want to work with the leading influencers in a niche.
The solution to this problem is affiliate campaigns. By giving influencers a (generous) percentage of sales, you incentivize them to promote your products at no upfront cost. Naturally, convincing influencers to take part in affiliate campaigns is harder. However, if you have a very good fit between your product and the audience of the influencers in a niche, it is possible.
This strategy is a staple in the market for online courses and fintech solutions, but it is much more widely applicable.
In summary, with limited resources, the ideal early-stage startup marketing strategies are ones that require more effort and less capital. Effort is something you can afford as an early-stage founder. Once you grow, you’ll be able to transition to more capital-intensive marketing strategies.